Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
A Poem for Letters of Light
Porcelain women, carrying the burden of humanity.
When we crack under the weight, women come, like elves in the night, and use stories like glue to hold us together.
Her story saved me.
By the grace of our stories,
We heal and love and live.
I struggled with episodes of postpartum depression for six years before I realized that I had something more than a serious case of incompetence. I believed that I was weaker than other women and that I lacked the ability to cope with the normal stresses of life and motherhood.
For example, one day my toddler pulled a jar of peaches off the pantry shelf, scattering broken glass and peach juice across my kitchen tile. It completely overwhelmed me. I locked my kids in their rooms so they wouldn’t step on sharp glass, but I couldn’t face the kitchen. I cleaned out the bottom shelf of my linen closet and hid there in the blackness–shaking and cold. I prayed my husband wouldn’t come home for lunch and see me like that. I felt weak, broken, humiliated, and completely ashamed of myself.
There were other episodes as well: trying to cut myself in the shower, slapping my husband in the face, climbing out of our family car in the middle of moving traffic, and leaving the house after midnight while everyone else was sleeping and just driving all night.
There was a constant weight on my chest that made it hard to breath. I couldn’t fall asleep even though my body was weary to the bone. I felt that my world was collapsing in on me; I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I was constantly consumed with premonitions that I was going to die and leave my kids without their mother. My mind was bombarded with overwhelming thoughts, worries, and feelings of utter worthlessness. I had once been a talented and successful woman, but I believed I had become incompetent and that my life was bad because I wasn’t organized enough, spiritual enough, capable enough.
Shortly after our fourth baby was born, I found myself on my friend’s doorstep at midnight, in desperate need for help. She made me promise to call my OB’s office the next day. I did, and was prescribed an antidepressant.
I didn’t take the medication. I was suspicious of an over-the-phone diagnosis, which sounded to me like a “one-size-fits-all” treatment. Plus, a dear friend of mine had recently suffered a horrific reaction to an antidepressant that caused many complications. I was terrified that taking a drug would make my condition even worse.
Not taking medication was one of the best and worst things I’ve ever done. My journey to find natural healing was a crucible of personal discovery through which I learned how much I allowed negative, toxic voices to carry on an uncensored monologue in my head. I learned that my body was telling me to slow down and to be more realistic with my expectations. I learned that it’s okay to let people see my imperfections. I learned to open my heart to life and love. I learned to take time to breathe.
After eighteen long months, I finally started taking an antidepressant. The symptom relief was wonderful. I could finally sleep. The constant weight on my chest went away. The muddiness in my head cleared and I was again able to make rational decisions. I felt more like the real me.
My journey through postpartum depression was a defining moment in my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve endured, but I believe it has made me more compassionate, empathetic, grateful, open-hearted, fun-loving, and fearless. My daily dose of Prozac gives my body much-needed chemical support. I tell my story because another woman told her story, and through her story, she saved me.